As the weather gets warmer this summer, it is essential to plan ahead and think about how you can look after yourself to prevent an onset of heat-related illnesses.
Extreme heat can affect anybody, but seniors and people living with disabilities are more prone to heat stress as their body may struggle to adapt to sudden or prolonged changes in outside temperatures. Chronic medical conditions can also worsen in the heat and certain medications may interfere with internal temperature regulation.
Hot weather safety is paramount. Heat-related illnesses can range from mild conditions such as a rash or cramps to heat stroke, which has the potential to be fatal.
Being vigilant of your existing health problems and how to deal with them in extreme weather means you can mitigate the risk of heat stress efficiently and there is less cause for extra worry or concern, particularly from your carers and loved ones.
Signs of heat stress include:
- Body temperature greater than the usual 37 degrees Celsius
- An unexplained change in behaviour, such as being confused or agitated
- Dry skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained breathlessness or rapid pulse
- Heavy sweating
If you start to experience any of these symptoms, seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Waiting for symptoms to reside will most likely worsen your condition and increase the likelihood of a medical emergency and hospitalisation.
How can a MePACS personal alarm help someone with heat stress?
When you’re feeling unwell in the heat, it can be challenging to call for emergency assistance on your own. Confusion, nausea or injury may impact your coordination, vision and ability to speak and inevitably delay your call for essential help.
A MePACS personal alarm alleviates the stress of the situation by giving you direct access to a 24/7 response team, professionally trained in emergencies and client-centred care.
With home, mobile and watch alarms available, your signal for help is answered within 2 minutes, with a proficient and experienced operator available to assess the situation and organise the most appropriate help for you.
Our ‘daily call’ service is also a reassuring welfare check for those who live alone. By pressing one button on a home speaker unit, you can let our team know that you are ready for the day and feeling well. This was an especially helpful connection for many of our clients during the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
What can you do to reduce heat stress for seniors?
- Keeping up your fluids is an absolute necessity. Regardless of how active you are, you need to drink more water during hot weather and never wait until you are thirsty. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go, take frequent sips, and avoid drinks with lots of sugar. If you want more flavour in your water, add a slice of lemon or strawberries
- Some people lose their appetite in hot weather. Eating fruit and vegetable snacks can be a good way to graze your way to a healthy dietary intake
- Place damp towels around your neck, put your feet in cool water (like the bath or a smaller tub) and take cool showers. Having a rest on your couch or bed and avoiding any strenuous activities will also help you maintain your energy
- Turn on an air conditioner or fan. If you don’t have either, visit a family member who has these appliances and can take care of you
- Block out the sun as much as you can. Close large windows to keep the cool air in and ensure internal blinds are drawn
- Wear loose and light-weight clothing. Light-coloured clothing (white, yellow, pastels) reflects heat so it will keep you cooler for longer
- Stay in touch family throughout the day by phone, texts or video call
- Bring your pets indoors during the hottest part of the day and provide them with lots of cool drinking water. You can also freeze treats into an ice block or purchase a cooling mat for their bed
- If you still want to go outside, wait until the coolest part of the day or keep to the shade
- Consider getting outdoor exercise earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when the heat and UV rays are reduced
- Remember to protect yourself from the sun by covering exposed skin, use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses. Limit the time you are outside and always take a water bottle with enough water to keep you hydrated for your activity